Stories of loves, deaths and betrayals from the distant past come together with original songs written from personal experience in the music of French folk singer Gabriel Yacoub.\nAt a concert Saturday at the John Waldron Arts Center Auditorium, Yacoub will play guitar and sing both traditional French folk songs and his own modern music. The concert, which begins at 7:30 p.m., is presented by the Lotus Concert Series, also organizers of Bloomington's annual world music festival.\nYacoub said the concert will be very casual but perhaps a bit confusing for the audience.\n"Almost all the songs are in French, so in between I try to explain in English what each song is about and try to get people interested, since most of the time lots of people who come hear me in this country don't speak French," he said. "I try to help them understand it."\nA performer in his native country since he was a teenager, Yacoub first performed as a back-up guitarist for Celtic harpist Alan Stivell. Later he formed his own folk group, Malicorne, which produced modern songs out of traditional French music. College music magazine CMJ described Yacoub as "a master craftsman who never lets that perfection cloud the emotional content of his songs."\nWhen performing traditional music, presenting emotional content also means knowing the history behind songs that date back as far as the Middle Ages.\n"Most of the songs have lots of hidden meanings," Yacoub said. "Many are very symbolic. They remained alive because they were important to people for telling stories or evoking symbols or beliefs of people that were deeply rooted inside the culture or inside the mind. For modern artists or anybody listening to such a song, these songs are very mysterious."\nBy studying the traditional music for many years, Yacoub has unlocked many of the mysteries behind these songs -- information he tries to share with his audience during a concert.\n"You can find very mysterious things in old traditional song lyrics," he said. "It's part of the fascination. It's like abstract poetry."\nSome of Yacoub's favorite types of traditional songs are old French ballads, which he said tell stories similar to those that can be found in typical movies. One song that Yacoub has sung for many years deals with a woman who is so jealous of her son's true love that she demands he kill her. \n"It's terrible, but those are the kind of things that attracted people's imagination," Yacoub said.\nOn Yacoub's newest album, The Simple Things We Said, he performs two songs in English, a first for him. He wrote the title track for a good friend to sing in English and decided to try it himself a few years later.\n"It's something special for an American audience, but to be honest, I feel much more at ease when I sing it in my own language," he said. "I think people when they come to hear me don't expect me to sing in English, and they don't need me to do that. I can bring something different."\nSaturday's performance will not mark Yacoub's first visit to Bloomington. He performed at the Lotus Festival a few years ago. Lee Williams, executive director of Lotus, followed Yacoub's career and brought him to town in the 1980s. Through these concerts, the two became friends.\n"Some artists stay in hotels and prefer it, and some prefer to stay with people -- and he's one of those types," Williams said. "I got to know him, and so did my wife. Any time his agent calls and says there's going to be a tour for Gabriel, I do a date."\nWilliams said Yacoub has developed a following among folk music lovers in Bloomington and that he fits in well with the mission of Lotus.\n"He has one foot in the old world and one foot in the new," Williams said. "Those are the kinds of artists we really like in Lotus."\nWhile Williams expects many Bloomington residents to attend the concert, he also said it should be of interest to French-speaking students.\n"For French-speaking students, it's really nice to be able to combine a love of foreign language with music or art," he said. "Gabriel is very charismatic. His voice sounds like honey."\nYacoub said he looked forward to tonight's performance based on past shows in Bloomington.\n"I have a good memory of really warm audiences and really warm people," he said. "I've played there maybe three times. Every time I got a good response from people, and I really appreciate that"
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